Obama announces support for mosque near Ground Zero

WASHINGTON - (AP) - President Barack Obama on Friday forcefullyendorsed building a mosque near Ground Zero, saying the country'sfounding principles demanded no less.

"As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims havethe same right to practice their religion as anyone else in thiscountry," Obama said, weighing in for the first time on acontroversy that has riven New York and the nation.

"That includes the right to build a place of worship and acommunity center on private property in lower Manhattan, inaccordance with local laws and ordinances," he said. "This isAmerica, and our commitment to religious freedom must beunshakable."

Obama made the comments at an annual dinner in the White HouseState Dining Room celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The White House had not previously taken a stand on the mosque,which would be part of a $100 million Islamic center to be built inlower Manhattan two blocks from where nearly 3,000 people perishedwhen hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center towerson Sept. 11, 2001. Press secretary Robert Gibbs had insisted it wasa local matter.

It was already much more than that, sparking debate around thecountry as top Republicans including Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrichannounced their opposition.

Obama elevated it to a presidential issue Friday withoutequivocation.

While insisting that the place where the twin towers once stoodwas indeed "hallowed ground," Obama said that the proper way tohonor it was to apply American values.

"Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect tothose who are different from us - a way of life that stands instark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on thatSeptember morning, and who continue to plot against us today," hesaid.

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Trending Video

Stratford resident Kim Hearn says the bill represents 1 Bill would allow sick kids into medical marijuana program
State police say the crash occurred near exit 2 Police: Person fatally struck by car on I-95 in Greenwich
Wilton police say they're holding open houses for 3 Wilton Police Department seeks new building, holds open houses

advertisement | advertise on News 12


Focus on Connecticut Focus on Connecticut

Features local, state and federal officials discussing the issues around southwestern Connecticut.

Celebrates African-American culture in southwestern Connecticut. Our Lives

Celebrates African-American culture in southwestern Connecticut.

Each week News 12 Connecticut introduces you to Hometown Hero

News 12 highlights people who give to the community.

We spotlight a local team each week. Connecticut Team of the Week

Each week News 12 Connecticut highlights a team from a local school.

Sorry to interrupt...

Your first 5 are free

Access to News12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service Electric℠ video customers.

Please enjoy 5 complimentary views to articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.